On Sep. 30 Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2109 into law which, as of Jan. 1, 2014, requires all California parents who do not have their children immunized to read information about the benefits and risks of immunizations. Parents must sign a waiver from a physician or a nurse practitioner stating they have received that information, before they will be allowed to enroll their children in school.
Brown directed the state Department of Public Health to oversee the policy to help parents from becoming overwhelmed. He also directed the department to allow for a separate religious exemption on the waiver form, so that people whose religious beliefs prohibit immunizations won't have to get a medical professional's signature.
California is the 48th state to recognize religion as a basis of foregoing vaccination. California citizens who claim a religious belief will not be required to check the 'religious belief' exemption box on a waiver form, nor will they have to obtain a healthcare provider's counseling and signature in order to implement their exemption.
In a signing statement, Brown said that the 2014 immunization waiver law still allows parents to decide against having their children vaccinated. The law only ensures that parents make informed decisions about the risks and benefits.
President James Hay of The California Medical Association called AB2109 "a huge step in the right direction for public health."
Gilroy Unified School District parents were faced with a similar vaccination headache only last year when state legislation took effect July 1, 2011 requiring all California middle and high school students (7th- through 12th-grade) to get vaccinated against pertussis, or whooping cough, by the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. If they did not, their children would be sent home from school.
Last year, this deadline was extended to July 14 with the passing of Senate Bill 614, which granted schools an extra 30 days after classes began to verify Tdap records.
Even with the deadline extension, GUSD faced an enormous challenge the last time it had to comply with a new immunization law.
Brown signed the whooping cough immunization bill in 2011 amid what Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, called the largest national whooping cough epidemic in 50 years. Preventable diseases can spread not only to those who choose not to be vaccinated, but to those who can't be immunized including infants, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, AIDS patients or those who are allergic to vaccines, Pan said in a statement.